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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 24 June 2018

Former opposition MP surrenders to Kuwaiti authorities

Musallam Al Barrak returned to Kuwait and turned himself in to begin serving a 7-year sentence passed down by Kuwait's criminal courts in November

Kuwaiti opposition leader Musallam Al Barrak speaks during a  gathering at a square opposite of the National Assembly building in Kuwait City on June 10, 2014. Yasser Al Zayyat / AFP
Kuwaiti opposition leader Musallam Al Barrak speaks during a gathering at a square opposite of the National Assembly building in Kuwait City on June 10, 2014. Yasser Al Zayyat / AFP

Kuwaiti political opposition member Musallam Al Barrak surrendered himself to authorities for his involvement in the storming of the country's parliament in 2011.

The former parliamentarian will return to Kuwait from Saudi Arabia two months after the country’s higher court sentenced him to seven years in prison over charges of “using force and inciting unrest”.

“I am returning to the country I love and am loyal to, knowing that there is an order for my arrest, which has absolutely no resemblance to the law but is intentionally a political move,” he said in a video posted on his Twitter account.

This politician return to Kuwait through the southern border crossing from Saudi Arabia is taking place less than two months after courts sentenced him and 65 others for their involvement in the parliament storming.

Mr Al Barrak went into self-exile to Saudi Arabia after serving a two-year prison sentence for insulting the ruler in a speech in 2012.

Among those sentenced were eight former MPs and two currently serving in the parliament, most of whom surrendered themselves before the deadline to begin their sentence next week.

“The parliament members and the youth who entered parliament, which is the home of the people, didn’t do so with criminal intentions, but for nationalistic reasons, which their families and the majority of Kuwait’s people are proud of,” he said.

The outspoken former parliament deputy has become somewhat of a cult hero with a massive political following comprised primarily of Kuwait’s tribal members.

His popularity grew in the 2011 protests when several opposition members led accusations of then Prime Minister Sheikh Nasser Al Mohammed Al Sabah over corruption charges, and eventually led to the royal’s resignation.

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Many of Kuwait’s stateless citizens began protesting against their lack of rights in the country in 2011 amid Arab Spring protests across the Middle East.

The former politician uses his Twitter account as his main method of communicating to his some 200,000 followers and drawing attention to corruption cases in the government.

The Kuwait government resigned in October 2017 over allegations of mismanagement and triggered fears of a parliament dissolution. Voters in Kuwait, however, are unlikely to welcome another parliamentary election, having gone to the ballot box seven times in since 2006.

While Kuwait allows more freedom of speech than some other Gulf Arab states, the emir has the last say in state affairs.

Mr Al Barrak won his first seat in parliament in 1996, and won six more elections after that, the last of which was in 2012 when he came out first in his district.